Prepare and protect your business when a flood is forecast
- When possible flooding is forecast, keep frequent tabs on weather updates.
- Learn how to safely store equipment, computers, servers and important documents.
- Review essential systems to your building, from pumps to generators.
- Survey your building’s envelope for possible water intrusion: roof, windows, doors and more.
This blogpost is an abbreviated version of Zurich’s When it comes to flood risks, you can never be too prepared and is used with permission from Zurich.
As the most common natural disaster in the U.S., flooding’s frequency and severity is growing worse. Climate change is definitely an impact, but so too are the management of waterways and infrastructure, and increased urbanization. That’s why we’re posting today with flood preparation steps for businesses.
Business owners or managers, your most immediate action needed is an Emergency Response Plan (ERP), which includes flood mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Let’s start with preparedness.
1. Being weather-aware is first in your flood preparation steps for businesses
Keeping tabs on weather conditions is step one in flood preparation steps for businesses. Stay informed on expected heavy rainfall and major storms in your area via the National Weather Service plus state and local authorities. If flood risks are present, the rising water levels for local bodies of water should cue you as to what actions to take, such as:
- Ensuring workplace management and emergency response teams receive notifications of weather and water level warnings issued by the National Weather Service and proper authorities.
- Determining conditions (water levels or rain intensities) at which warnings are issued by those relevant authorities and, if possible, the time/distance expected until adverse conditions reach your business sites.
- Setting actions to take for each warning level; communicating them to teams responsible for implementing these actions, as well as resources required.
2. Protecting your supply chain
Flooding can prevent needed goods and resources from getting in and out of your offices and facilities. To help prevent this from occurring:
- Identify as many alternative, accessible supply routes as possible and ensure all employees, contractors, suppliers and vendors know these routes for their respective roles.
- Identify alternative suppliers and vendors if the entities you normally work with are unable to provide services.
- Identify storage areas within or near your business sites that are best for protecting water-sensitive materials. This means moving those materials to a higher floor level, procuring water-protective storage units or renting flood-protective storage units from an outside company.
- Critical paper documents should be stored away from basement and ground floor levels in flood-prone areas.
3. Keeping the lights (and everything else) on
Power outages are common during floods. Aside from the many ways a power outage can adversely affect your normal course of business, it can be especially dangerous if the outage impacts pumps or other equipment used to help control or limit flood damage. In your flood preparation steps for businesses, be ready for power outages by regularly testing:
- Generators or other backup power supplies
- Emergency lighting systems
- Back-flow valves and closures
- Any other essential equipment
Also ensure adequate fuel is available for emergency equipment. Store fuel safely according to fire safety requirements, away from potential flooding.
4. Roofing and structural precautions
Roof damage can be a major area of inundation, especially in flooding caused by high-intensity rain, storms and high-wind events. Damaged roofing can result in lost or damaged equipment, supplies and structural harm, predominantly in the upper levels of the building.
Of course, many other areas in buildings have potential flood exposures. Make sure your company has regular inspection and maintenance plans for all building envelope areas, including:
- Roofing systems
- Wall panels
- Drainage systems
- Doors and windows
5. Have a digital defense
If computers, hard drives and server networks that store vital information are damaged in a flood, virtual assets are just as easily lost or damaged as physical ones. Important digital documents and data should be backed up regularly to a data center or storage area located offsite and not at risk from the same flood event.
6. Have the right tools at hand
In your flood preparation steps for businesses, be sure you’re properly stocked to handle repairs and actions needed immediately in both the response and recovery phases of your ERP with such tools as:
- Submersible pumps
- Personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, hard hats, etc.
- Blowers and dehumidifiers
All these items should be stored in an easily accessible place.
7. Be ready for shutdown and tie-down procedures
When flooding is imminent, you may need to shut down critical equipment and/or utilities. To ensure those tasked with this can do it safely, have available detailed diagrams and plans showing the locations of shut-off valves and levers and proper action levels for different stages of a flooding event. Shutdown diagrams, plans and instructions should be included for:
- Power sources, including gas and electric
- Water and backflow valves
- Other utilities
When equipment that can’t be moved needs to be tied down, it may need to be done very quickly. Provide detailed instructions and training to help expedite this process without compromising the safety of your people.
8. Be ready to move
Depending on your business, mobile flood protection systems may be important in helping your company respond to a flooding event. Be sure employees assigned to implement mobile flood equipment know where it is and how to use it properly. Again, detailed diagrams, plans and instructions are key in effective planning.
9. Be ready to stay in place
Sometimes there’s not enough advance warning of a severe weather event (such as flash flooding or a riverbank failure) to allow for evacuation. Ensure anyone forced to remain on work premises during a flood is supplied with:
- Stocks of fresh water
- Stocks of non-perishable and canned foods
- Communication equipment which, in addition to cellphones and internet capabilities, should include two-way radios and spare batteries in case cellular reception or internet connections are lost
10. Train, learn … and train again
You can never be over-prepared for a flood emergency. Conduct regular training sessions for everyone involved in your company’s ERP. Update that training when needed based on recommendations from national and local emergency services and your company’s history with past floods. If a flood impacts your business, take a hard look at where your company needs to improve and incorporate those points into future training sessions.
In our next blogpost, we’ll continue with more preparation and prevention steps for businesses.